The majority of lawyers based in the U.K. would prefer Rishi Sunak to be their next Prime Minister, research by Law.com International has found.
As Conservative Members of Parliament Sunak and Liz Truss battle it out for the top spot of Conservative Party Leader and de facto U.K. Prime Minister, most lawyers would prefer the former Chancellor of the Exchequer to win out.
A snap poll of over 40 lawyers found more than 85% are in favour of Sunak—though most are taking that stance begrudgingly.
Many partners Law.com International spoke to on the issue are taking an ‘anyone but Truss’ approach, though some favour Sunak based on his own merit.
Sunak’s more “logical” economic vision has put him ahead amongst lawyers, with many lawyyers comments praising his abilities in the area. One survey respondent labelled him as the “only economically literate candidate,” while another joked he could at least “understand addition and subtraction”.
One London-based partner at a U.S. firm explained his preference for Sunak: “I think Rishi has a better understanding of business, of the economy, of corporate finance. He would be my pick over Liz Truss for sure.”
Few respondents expressed genuine enthusiasm for Sunak, though, with several slamming the choice of final two candidates and vilifying Truss.
One respondent to the survey described her as “a pound shop Thatcher” and “actively dangerous,” while a partner at a Magic Circle firm compared the choice between her and Sunak as “being asked whether you would prefer still or sparkling water when you’re about to be waterboarded”.
One partner at an elite U.K. firm called the elections “a race to the bottom” whilst another survey respondent said: “He shows signs of sanity, she is unfit to be a kindergarten teacher.”
The preference is a stark contrast to the current standing of the leadership election, which has consistently found Truss to be performing better with party members in recent weeks. A YouGov poll published on August 2 found that 60% of party members intend to vote for Truss in the leadership election.
Law.com International found few genuine supporters for Truss in the U.K. legal industry. One rare lawyer in favour of her said: “Originally I was in favour of Rishi, but the way he has run his leadership campaign and the level of tax burden he is prepared to countenance, have dissuaded me.
“In contrast, Liz Truss has surprised me throughout the leadership campaign and has put forward sensible fiscally conservative policies, that I believe will lead to the better economic growth of the two approaches.”
Some of the survey respondents who plumped for Truss did so because of the negative impact they believe her appointment will have on the Conservative party. One respondent said: “Hopefully she’s more likely to lose the General Election,” while one self-professed non-Conservative supporter said that “an administration that she heads will unravel very quickly and the sound bites and promises that she is currently peddling to get the support of the Tory electorate will be shown to be shallow and ill considered.”
The underwhelming reaction to a choice of Truss or Sunak follows the legal industry’s general displeasure about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s protracted resignation in July. Early candidates for the leadership bid included U.K. attorney general, Suella Braverman, who also did not elicit much support from the legal industry. One senior partner at the time said: “she lacks integrity and moral fibre, and demonstrates clearly why she would not be a fit and proper person to lead her party and the country.”
Other survey responses:
“Although I do not like either of them, and I would not vote Tory, I do think that Rishi did maintain a level of principle during the pandemic (and shows knowledge and skill in economic issues which Liz Truss seems to lack entirely). It is more of a rock and a hard place type questions (where the hard place just doesn’t bear thinking about given her mind/position changing continually, save for her unwavering support for Boris)”
“She [Truss] is so obviously inept and, frankly, odd that even the Tory cheerleaders in the right-wing press won’t be able to help her. She will destroy her party for a generation, which will be a huge relief to the country.”
“He [Sunak] would be a nightmare and cannot be trusted but Liz Truss would be even worse. These are the worst set of politicians in my lifetime. Just when we needed some good ones.”
“He [Sunak] is far more realistic about the enormity of the problems the economy faces and the tough choices that have to be made. Truss is living in LaLa land as far as her policies are concerned.”
“Liz frankly lacks any credibility. She is all soundbite and shows little grasp of economic reality. She also appeals to a more right wing part of the party which got us into the Brexit mess and leans at times towards facism and would be no better than the illiberal “liberal” left. Her refusal to recognise that Boris had become totally untrustworthy is another reason. In fact there are so many reasons I find it hard to understand why she is the front runner. At the end of the day Rishi represents a more centrallist Conservatism that will appeal to a wider range of the electorate and deliver stability rather than seeking to appeal to the fringes.”
Hannah Walker contributed to this report.